Mathematics

Mathematics

Advocating Educational Foundations in Maths

Children in the UK are lagging behind other countries. This has come about due to a fundamental shift in the 1960s when the maths national curriculum moved from a traditional approach focusing on teaching technique and methodology to a more modern approach to teaching focusing on problem solving. As part of my role as an advisor on the new maths national curriculum, I advocated having more structure in the curriculum – teaching maths subject by subject, thereby giving more coherence to the curriculum.

MEDIA WISDOM PHOTOGRAPHY LTDThe 1960s educational experiment that saw a more progressive, child-centric approach introduced to British classrooms, has failed and generations of school children have paid the price for this. Having been trained as a teacher of drama and English, I do believe that a more progressive approach to teaching, using the methods that modern mathematicians use, can sometimes be a good thing. However, I also believe that primary school children respond best when maths is taught with a step-by-step approach. Children need to be taught the basic techniques before then being given a chance to practise that technique. Once they understand the basic technique, a more progressive approach can be used to expand on these techniques.  To use an analogy, progressive teaching is like giving a child bricks and telling them to build a house without first giving them the basic instructions and techniques that constitute the best way to build houses. The primary school years are where we need to set the course for children’s education. This is where we ought to deal with all the fundamental techniques and knowledge that children need in numeracy and literacy and to set them up for life.

There seems to be a myth circulating at the moment, that we are testing children too much in the early years of school and creating too much pressure for them by doing so. In reality, schoolchildren have always been tested regularly, whether by parents or teachers. As educators, we have to be able to find out how much children have learnt, so that we can know how much has been absorbed and how much more explanation is needed. It is the quality of the testing that we need to focus on, to ensure that we are monitoring children at every stage of their development – from how well they are reading, to how well they know their times tables.